Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong: The Dogma of Otherness

A quirk of Fandom:

I would like, if I may, to take you on a journey. First, I need to ask a favor, (there will be cookies and punch later) if you have not read about David Brin’s concept of “Otherness” then you should. I am going to refer to it and it will make more sense if you do.  You should anyway because it is an interesting essay on our culture. It can take a bit of effort to wrap your head around, because it has some Zen Koan like warping to it, but give it a try.

David Brin: The Dogma of Otherness

See, isn’t that fascinating?  I am not sure it is correct, but I feel like the concept bears discussing. What you didn’t read it!  Well… okay If you are in a hurry I will try to sum it up, using his own words:

“The Dogma of Otherness insists that all voices deserve a hearing, that all points of view have something of value to offer.” – Brin

Assuming we take this concept at face value,  it could be the an example of a characteristic that helps creates the dynamic, inclusive and irreverent culture that allowed so many of us to find our “tribe”.

This would mean there is an essential unspoken agreement that Otherness demands no cultural absolutes, and we  shouldn’t judge concepts not of our own culture… Bear with me a bit here, I want to make sure we all have some shared lexicon here to work with.

So let’s make some statements, you don’t have to agree with them, but they are a framework for discussion.

A.  Fandom culturally supports Otherness

B.  Otherness is that which is not part of our cultural experience

C.  Fandom being a known culture does not always extend the consideration of B to itself

Still with me?


My question is this, shouldn’t the Dogma of Otherness get extended to ourselves?  If we are faithful in the concept that we cannot in good faith truly know anything absolutely about another culture which is not scientifically empirical data, then it would make sense that is true for our own culture as well. That the benefit of the doubt we offer others includes ourselves.

I have no answer here, only this nagging dissonance that we are not true to our own zeitgeist.  Also these are obviously monolithic comments which are all-inclusive and thus by their very nature, provably inaccurate at a micro level.  I am more concerned with the macro trends here  and not the exceptions, for which there are many.

Perhaps the very nature of the Dogma of Otherness has flaws and by its attempt to “understand” something there is an unspoken bias? It seems like we need balance here, where all things are judged by their merits alone.  Otherness perhaps implies that templates of judgement based on race, age, sex, gender or body type are inherently wrong and cast aside.  I can get behind that thinking, I just wonder if we take it too far, or if we don’t take it too far enough?

What do you think Internets?

– Seamus

This entry was posted in Burning in Effigy, Navel Gazing, Otherness. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong: The Dogma of Otherness

  1. seamusbayne says:

    Hands you a cookie and punches you in the shoulder…

    Other blogs Promise…

    Mythlife DELIVERS!

    (This has been a paid political advertisement for the Campaign for Seamus Bayne for the Nothing, and I endorse this message)

  2. Beth says:


    I think your statement 3 is rather more part of the question/argument than a framing statement – as a framing statement you run the risk of begging the question.

    You seem to say “A doesn’t get as much consideration as B” (which may or may not be true, but that’s neither here nor there) and then turn around and ask “Shouldn’t it?”

    (“What do they teach children in schools these days?” :-))

    Rigor, my dear. Always rigor.

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